Buying Radio? Read This & Don't Waste Your Money
It actually CAN be an effective media!
by John Jordan
No doubt you’ve listened to, and then quickly deleted, messages from account execs from your local radio stations. Maybe you’ve even entertained them in your office. Hopefully you didn’t have to sanitize your phone or office afterwards.
Well, radio can be great way to garner awareness cheaply... ahem, inexpensively... if you do it right. Remember... 97.823% of all radio ads S-U-C-K. That leaves you to carry the banner for great radio advertising. And when you do, you will get noticed. Believe me, you will get noticed.
Why do so many radio ads suck? Between the screaming car ads, and nasally voiced business owners who should never get anywhere near a microphone reading their own ads, and the next “turnkey” business opportunity, they are all dressed in their plaid suits and resorting to hucksterism. They want your money and they want it now.
They forget one thing. Well, actually a lot of things, but the main thing they forget that people are not tuning in for their ad. Listeners want Rush, Rome, Al, Laura, music, sports, news, or whatever. People aren’t saying, “Gee, I gotta hear great heating and air conditioning ads today!”
Your ad is interrupting what they listen for. By nature, you are already behind the eight ball before you start in radio. But there is hope.
First off, do NOT let a radio station employee write your ad.
If your exec isn’t a writer (you may luck out in that some radio execs are copywriters in training looking for an agency gig) and you don’t speak up, your ad will probably get written by either: the station producer- who may have already written 4 or 5 other ads that same DAY,who doesn’t have enough time to fully attend to your needs, and thereby wasting your money; OR a disc jockey (strange term- they don’t spin wax anymore, Daddy-O) whose annoyed he or she has to write an ad, or who’s not a talented writer to begin with, also wasting your money; OR by an intern, secretary, or other employee - who may relish the opportunity, but may not have the chops yet, or is being pressured to write something “quick and dirty” so it can produced and on the air -- also thereby wasting your money.
You have creative control and the ultimate yay or nay, so feel free to choose your writer. Hint and Shameless Plug : There are lots of links here to direct you to an excellent radio writer.
Now, when it comes down to concepting and reviewing scripts, remember this: Radio is called Theater of the Mind for good reason. Use it to your advantage. Recall your disadvantage before starting.
Cleverness will grab attention. But... it must be on strategy to be effective. Give your writer ONE benefit to express. How does that benefit resonate with the target audience? Don’t think if you have a “mundane” or “boring” product or service, there’s no cleverness to be had. Give a good writer enough information, and they will find it.
A few of the BEST radio ads I’ve ever heard was for a soil conditioner. Yup. A soil conditioner. Two voices. One performed by the writer. The other performed by midlevel (read... talented, and nonunion) voice talent. Writer as The Hick Farmer. nonunion Talent as the Smart Farmer.
Hick Farmer: “Hey, nay-bor...Whatzzat on yer roof?”
Smart Farmer: (obviously) “It’s a satellite dish.”
Hick Farmer: “Whazzit fer...? Talkin’ to the Martians?”
You can almost hear the slack jaw in your head. And it makes you want to hear more. That’s your goal for radio.
Another ad for the same product was even better.
Smart Farmer: “Hey, neighbor... Why so glum?”
Hick Farmer: “Aw... the weeds, the bugs, the disease... my crops are about ruined... I’ve had an awful year. The wife has been pickin’ her tooth for leftovers.”
Now, I’m not a farmer. I never heard of conditioning soil. But, you can bet I understood what it did after these ads. And did I mention I was wondrously entertained when receiving this information?
To be fair, these ads were produced by an ad agency with a good sized budget. The campaign also won some ad awards and some industry awards. The point is-- a good ad isn’t loud, repetitive, trite, condescending, or tries to jam as many words possible into the time frame. In fact, silence works to your advantage. Silence in radio (or even TV) is like white space on a print ad. It tastefully surrounds the content for maximum effectiveness, drawing the eye in (or in this case, the ear) to read (hear) the copy.
Voices are important, too. Ever listen to the radio and hear the same voice all over the ads? That’s usually Mr. or Ms. Producer-- the person who makes sure the ad gets made. That’s why they don’t have time to write a good one for you. Many freelance writers, myself included, know something about voices and casting, and can probably get you the best talent for your dollar. Some writers can even voice their own copy.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what length of ad to buy? In most cases, go for the :60. For just a few dollars more, you get twice the time to play with. If you are spending money on radio, use ALL the resources available to you to create the best possible ad. And that usually entails going outside the radio station walls to get it.